Column: Go Local: 6 Farmers Markets You Need To Visit
By Bobbi Eggers
Everywhere I travel, I love to go to local markets. Whether it is the Bazar in Istanbul, the Borough Market in London, or Les Puces de Saint-Ouen in Paris. There is an Amish Farmers Market in Lancaster, PA that was one of the best parts about visiting my son in college. Although markets are touristy at times, I still love to snoop around and get a flavor for local food and friendly, enthusiastic merchants as I push through crowded aisles, sampling local cooking- the original “small businesses.”
In Connecticut, our indigenous markets are authentic Farmers Markets. I love the colors of the different kinds of kale and beans, and the smell of fresh basil as I approach the plant man. The local baker eagerly hands me samples of berry or peach pies. I have been exploring the local Farmers Markets, all within 35 minutes of Greenwich, and find them to be surprisingly different and worth the drive to the best ones. A fresh, handmade, cured pickle is so much crunchier than the soggy grocery store pickles and where else can you get the fresh squash blossoms on the zucchini tops? Some of the Farmers Markets even have old fashioned knife sharpening booths, a nice offering for home chefs. Every individual market has it’s own rules. There are no uniform guidelines for Farmers Markets, so the assortment and quality vary. I am a Farmers Market snob because authenticity is so important to me.
Support our local growers. Surprisingly, Farmers Markets aren’t doing as well as they used to with small markets springing up all over and the demand for fresh food now being met at Whole Foods, Stop and Shop and Shop-Rite. Still, I prefer to support the local growers. Last week, I discovered one of my favorite markets in Fairfield. It has a bit of a Brooklyn vibe to it. At the entrance, a young grower was selling microgreens sprouting in trays lined up on his tables. He was offering samples with little snips of his scissors, his wife and baby sitting on the ground next to him. In further conversation, he explained that he grows at home and teaches biology at Trumbull High and does this on Sundays. So many of these grower/owners are manning their own booths while at other markets, authenticity can be questionable.
Our own Greenwich Farmers Market is one of the oldest in the state. Part of the reason you don’t find things like bread and other specialty items is that the town itself only wanted to have products grown and produced by farmers in the state and not any other producers. There are rumors that the Greenwich businesses didn’t want the competition, but I contacted the Market Master, Judy Waldeyer, and she said that isn’t true. It is all about CT grown. They have now agreed to allow some breads, but it remains a true farmers market.
If you love clean, fresh, seasonal, local food and snooping around the booths, here are some of my very favorite markets and there are plenty more to choose from. Most of these will continue through September, some end in December.
Greenwich Farmers Market
9:30-1:00, at Exit 3 in the parking lot across from the Boys and Girls Club.
13 Vendors listed on the website, excellent quality, only CT produce allowed. Vegetables, beef, pork, chicken, fresh eggs, prepared foods and dips, jams, herbs & succulents, seafood, fruit, apple cider donuts (everyone’s favorite), cheese, mushrooms, maple syrup, honey. www.greenwichfarmersmarket.com
New Canaan Farmers Market
10:00 – 2:00, rain or shine
29 vendors listed on the website, this market is bustling, two aisles wide, with a wide variety to choose from and plenty of samples to try. Vegetables, fruit and berries, handmade soaps, organic microgreens, plants, succulents and handmade pots, prepared foods, freshly baked gluten free and traditional breads, pies and pastries, gazpacho, hummus, cured pickles, cookie dough, a knife sharpener, handmade raviolis, pet foods, coffees, smoothies, small batch chaga soda, hot sauces and more.
Fairfield Farmers Market
10:00-2:00, Sherman Green, 1451 Post Rd., Fairfield, CT
Over 24 local growers and businesses including breads & pastries, olive oils, salami & pork, honey, vegetables, berries, pickles, eggs, empanadas, gourmet frozen popsicles (try the coconut vanilla), beeswax, maple syrup, handmade soaps, teas, cheeses, homemade biscotti, veggie juices, hummus varieties with baked seasoned chips, and edible cookie dough.
Rye “Down to Earth” Farmers Market
8:30 – 2:00, Parking lot on Theo Fremd Ave.- directly behind the Purchase Street stores.
Run by the Rye Chamber of Commerce, this market is small but mighty. Fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit, baked pies, gluten free and traditional breads and pastries, crunchy fresh pickles, infused olive oils, handmade soaps, chutneys, chocolates, small batch handmade whiskeys, fresh eggs, chicken burgers, and desserts.
Old Greenwich Farmers Market
2:30-6:00, rain or shine. 38 West End Avenue , in the parking lot of the Living Hope Community Church, Old Greenwich, CT.
The vendors can include vegetables, fruit, pies, pet food, knife sharpening, alpaca wool items, gourmet ice pops, prepared food to go and baked goods. On Tuesday evenings they email a newsletter indicating which vendors will be at the market that week. For a weekly reminder, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Westport Farmers Market, “Real food. Real farmers.”
10:00 – 2:00, 50 Imperial Avenue, Westport, CT
Started by Paul Newman and Michel Nischan in 2006, they are now 45 vendors strong. Alcohol and non-alcohol beer, seasonal vegetables, fruit, gluten free and a variety of breads, pastries, pies, knife sharpening, mushrooms, coffee, teas, pet food, oysters and seafood, desserts, prepared food, and more.